Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ding Dong, Cauthen's Gone!

Facebook is lame. I'm friends with family, distant family, vague acquaintances from grade school through college and so on. The crowd is too diverse and if I post anything the least bit divisive, it turns into a 30+ comment argument. No thanks! I prefer the comfort and quietness of my own little blog. So it is here that I can wax visceral and really let my hair down. Er... if I had any, that is.

Today at 3PM a KC City Council document, signed by six council members and the mayor, was put into effect, to immediately terminate the employment contract with the City Manager. Wayne... Wayne Cauthen... Oh how I hate his name! May his name be listed in KC infamy and obscurity. May it be remembered along with Pendergast and Lynn Elliot, if it be remembered at all.

Now I realize it may not seem fair to judge him so. After all, he had a difficult job. I won't pretend that all my reasons for disliking are firmly grounded in objectivity and reason. Some of them are, some are not. Some are subjective and some are just my "impression". However unfair, I shouldn't let that stop me from articulating my distaste for the man!

First off, he's an outsider. He came from Denver, with a poor track record there, to show Kansas City how to be a "world class" city. I never cared for his pretention or for Mayor Barnes, who seemed to be obsessed with the phrase "world class". The whole notion that we aren't classy enough is based on a loathing of Kansas City's quiet simplicity and familial environment. I loathe their loathing.

Wayne acted like a teenage kid with his dad's credit card. He bartered the City's future with every TIFF and bond issue. He was all about spending money that doesn't exist, to build a brighter future. This mindset put some big ticket items on the map, but to what avail? He brought in contractors and management companies from outside of KC to tend to the P&L district. He forced through the Sprint center, which still doesn't have an anchor. He set up one area after another that, through TIFF's, encouraged existing businesses to move into the tax friendly zones or were driven out of business altogether. The immediate result has been a net loss of jobs (from what I can recall from articles I've read but can't cite). I believe the long term impact is that the City will be saddled with expensive maintenance of assets which aren't able to cover their own costs. In short, he has screwed Kansas City.

Wayne did a lot of damage to the internal operations of the City as well. How much money has been wasted by CIMO consultants? Yeah, they got some stuff done- but at triple the price! How much Water Dept revenues have been raped to pay for bloated IT initiatives (PeopleSoft) or providing basic services that should be funded by taxes (street sweeping, household hazardous waste)? He has hired numerous cronies from Denver who have had their own best interest at heart as well.

He has been rampant about consolidation. From CIMO to the action center, he has, without any proper thought or setting of benchmarks, reorganized City business. He has forced all citizen calls through the 311 Action Center, but didn't provide any increased staff. Never mind that they took on the work of over 30 customer service reps from the Water Dept alone. He thought their already overwhelmed staff of 17 was up for the task.

Now to get a bit personal, one such crony is the IT Director. His motto is "centralization is better". He's been marking his territory (and buffering his budget) by centralizing any and everything that looks like IT. This is done without analysis or benchmarks. There are no goals, no business metrics or any type of process analysis done. There is no way they can show that things indeed are more efficient and they're not interested in that. He just wants the money and is generally confident that centralizing things always makes life better. His effect on my dept has been very negative. It now takes us much longer, and with much more bureaucracy, to get the same things done. Hopefully he'll be out the door right behind his boy, lil' Wayne!

Now to get really personal. Hubris. I could withstand a lot of the other crap, but when he was rude to our secretary- all condescending and blowing her off at a City event- that was intolerable. It doesn't matter how low the City employee was on the ladder, or how high he was, that type of arrogance is totally unbearable.

And last of all, he had really soft hands and a weak shake. Yeah, that's right: soft hands. I'm a friggin programmer but I have calluses like a gorilla. This is from working on the house and other stuff, and from lifting weights. I'm no construction worker, but this guy's flaccid handshake was like holding a bunch of flower petals. That tells me he doesn't do anything. I already didn't respect him as a manager but that experience caused me to lose basic respect for him as a man. Maybe he's hoping to be Lady Wayne?

So long, lil' Wayne. Go back to Denver. Go cash in all those kickbacks I am reasonably sure you've been storing up whilst raping and pillaging the good people of Kansas City. This City deserves better.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Technogasm

Gigiddy gigiddy! We are in the process of a home technology extreme makeover. This is thanks in large part to various technology tips passed along by friends.

Several weeks ago Percussivity told me about a sweet tech called Playon that will pump internet video from a computer to a Wii. After getting that put in place we signed up for Netflix and have been using their 'instant watch' feature quite a bit, although we really don't even watch much TV. We have decided that this is sufficient to replace our use of cable TV since the price for basic has steadily gone up.

A coworker told me about another product called Google Voice. This is an amazing new Google product that allows you to centralize all your phone numbers under one number. You have to request access from Google, which took about eight weeks to come through. Once in place, I could call my new Google phone number and my cell, home and Skype numbers all rang. It has tons more functionality as well, which gives you a lot of control.

We've also been using Skype and have just purchased a permanent Skype number plus a service that allows you unlimited calls to and from regular phones. My friend Guy has been doing this for a while now. My wife found a USB device that works with Skype on your computer and allows your regular phones to act as 'Skype phones'. So we'll soon be dropping our home phone service as well as TV. The only drawback to this arrangement is that we can't user our Google # as our Skype caller ID #, so people we call might get confused. I think at some point Google and Skype will probably work this out.

The sweet mulah we'll be saving on our reduced Time Warner bill is being shifted over to pay for a data service plan on a freakin' awesome T-Mobile MyTouch. Unfortunately this product is pimped by Whoopi Goldberg: but it's still a sweet product. My wife has been toting around a Dell Axim for about the last seven years and it's been telling us the system battery is shot for the last three years. Now it can be retired, along with her crappy Nokia. To my wife I say: Merry Christmas, happy birthday and happy anniversary! :-P Just kiddin'. With all the stuff she has to keep up with, this will be a great help to her. Now I can email her about dinner and expect an immediate response no matter where she's at.

One final note, if the unabashed short attention span reader is still reading this, mucho propso to you for fixing the lights on my trailer! You are one dude I will loan any of my stuff to, any time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Rights of Man

The concept of the rights of man is one that I don't believe people in our country really understand anymore. The concept itself is critical to the nature of our government and it's operation. But ignorance of this, ingrained by modern humanism, and fear of it, for sounding "Laodicean", are it's enemies from the left and from the right. Because of these things, the point which is the very foundation of our government is undone. As the psalmist said:

Psa 11:3 If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?

I will attempt to reflect that which I read by Thomas Paine on this topic. He certainly is not the only founder to have something to say on it, and arguably he is not the most authoritative. But it is a starting point and he makes a good case.

In the days of the founders they had a task that few have ever had before them: to create a government from the ground up. They could have copied a more well known form from Europe- noone would've blamed them. They could have set up the Kingdom of America and elected Washington their first monarch. They could have instituted a Greek-style pure democracy. But instead they reasoned from the very beginning of humanity: what is government? What is the purpose of government? Who is government for and what are the best means whereby it's goals may be attained?

They began their reasoning like an engineer would begin analyzing a complex system, by looking at it's original state. Paine, though not a believing Christian, quickly turns to the Biblical creation account, at least as a point of history. From this he clearly notes "the unity of equality of man". He quotes the Creator, "Let us make man in our own image. In the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." He notes, there is no distinction between men and that this "...shows that the equality of man, so far from being a modern doctrine, is the oldest upon record."

Our modern, Christian-fear to discuss rights are addressed when he says: "By considering man in this light, and by instructing him to consider himself in this light, it places him in close connection with all his duties, whether to his Creator or to the creation, of which he is part; and it is only when he forgets his orgin, or, to use a more fashionable phrase, his birth and family, that he becomes dissolute [indifferent to moral restraints]."

My impression of modern Bible believers is that they fear to discuss having any rights because they don't want to be associated with the church of Laodice. This is as much an overreaction as fearing to talk about the Holy Spirit because of foolishness done in the charismatic churches. Like any other concept, we shouldn't fear to address it and frame it in a proper context and hold it in a proper balance: we should only fear holding it in imbalance, or holding to falsehoods or ignorance altogether. Paine implicitly addresses this by equally discussing duty- and specifically duty towards our Creator- in the same context. Duty is what balances a discussion of rights, for the "rights" we have from our Creator are given to us that we may serve him and each other, and not ourselves.

On another note, his observation about people becoming less moral when they forget their "origins" is prophetic! This statement was writtin in the 1790's, seventy years before Darwin published On the Origin of Species.

This really just introduces the topic and sets it in a right context. Knowning the short attention span of certain persons, I will cover the rest of this discussion in my next post.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mellowing out with Monty

Since Montesquieu has been less contentious, I'll post another smattering of his writings before returning to Paine and almost certain disagreement over his thoughts on 'natural rights'.

From Montesquieu, Book 3: 'Of the principles of the three kinds of government'

This statement needs some context. He is trying to explain what holds up a government (what he calls 'springs'), based on each type of government. Here, he is contrasting democracy with monarchy and despotism by highlighting it's most significant difference:

But in a popular state (republican), one spring more is necessary, namely, virtue.

Other statements:

When virtue is banished, ambition invades the minds of those who are disposed to receive it, and avarice possesses the whole community.

As virtue is necessary in a republic, and in a monarchy honor, so fear is necessary in a despotic government...

Fear must therefore depress their spirits, and extinguish even the least sense of ambition.

Montesquieu's observations about the requirement of 'virtue' (I think what we would now call character) for a successful republic are based on studies of Greek and Roman systems, which both eventually failed. This is very consistent with the thinking of a least some of the Founders:

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other. Letter to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts (1798-10-11)

If Montesquieu and Adams are correct, then the most fundamental civic duty that anyone has is to both practice and to teach virtue/morals/character. As Christians, this is already part of our core mission, a.k.a. the great comission,; so Christians ought to be the most desirable of all citizens!

On the note of fear, both under Barry and under W, we have been constantly bombarded with messages of fear. Fear the terrorists, fear global warming, fear pandemics, fear economic collapse. It's not difficult to see that this is nothing but power grabbing by the Federal government. As noted by Monty, that type of leadership is a trademark of despotic rulership.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thomas Paine

Finally! My wife found the missing book tonight, so now I can post some of Thomas Paine's quotes from The Rights Of Man... that is, in between the crippling coughs...

Paine wrote this book largely in response to another work, Reflections On The Revolution In France by Edmund Burke. They are typically published as a single piece. Burke takes an ill view of the Frog's revolution while Paine ardently defends it. My own, very stunted, understanding of the French revolution has left me with the impression that it was a victory of unhalted humanism. It has been a great surprise to find out the details of this and to see it in an entirely new light.

Since this quote is a bit longer, I'll just post this one for the day:

It was not against Louis XVI, but against the despotic principles of the government, that the nation revolted. These principles had not their origin in him, but in the original establishment, many centuries back; and they were become too deeply rooted to be removed, and the Augean stable of parasites and plunderers too abominably filthy to be cleansed, by anything short of a complete and universal revolution.
When it becomes necessary to do a thing, the whole heart and soul should go into the measure, or not attempt it. That crisis was then arrived, and there remained no choice but to act with determined vigor, or not to act at all.

This one stuck out to me because he's basically saying the government was so broken, it was beyond repair and revolution was the only recourse. That gave me pause to consider our own circumstance! Have the parasites and plunderers so infected Washington that it is ill beyond all healing, or is it simply the most daunting task ever faced by our nation?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Bathroom update

Just over a year ago I took some construction shots, so this is an anniversary update.



















beforeafter












And here's an extra shot of some of the laborious tile work next to the faucet.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Laws derived from the nature of government

From The Spirit Of Laws, Book 2

...indeed it is important to regulate in a republic, in what manner, by whom, to whom, and concerning what suffrages are to be given...
(a quote from Declam, 17 and18) Libanius says that at "Athens a stranger who intermeddled in the assemblies of the people was punished with death."
The constitutions of Rome and Athens were excellent- the decress of the senate had the force of laws for the space of a year, but did not become perpetual till they were ratified by the consent of the people.
...but in a republic, where a private citizen has obtained an exorbitant power, the abuse of this power is much greater, because the laws foresaw it not, and consequently made no provision against it.
But the most imperfect of all (types of aristocracies) is that in which the part of the people that obeys is in a state of civil servitude to those who command, as the artistocracy of Poland, where the peasants are slaves to the nobility.
The notion of interfering with domestic politics being a capital offense is rather novel. Surely with China and Arab nations, practical enemies to our way of life, owning so much of our national debt, we are at great risk to rule ourselves. We ought to at least cast off foreign debt!
I especially am fond of the idea that all laws ought to have a short expiration date, unless they are approved by the people. This brings them under constant review and keeps the policians busy digging holes and filling them up again. The actual idea behind this was to allow for a 'proving time' for laws, which is something we lack. They are hardly ever repealed, and then only with great effort. Gridlock is good.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bike Repainting

My youngest daughter, codenamed 'Boo' for inet anonymity, received a hand-me-down bike last year. In order to coax her into ditching the training wheels, I promised her that if she learned to ride without those that we could repaint her bike. There are several other repainting projects that I'd like to do someday as well and I definitely would like to learn how to apply a glassy finish to objects, so this is a great way to get into all that.

Also, my last post probably had too many words and was conceptually challenging for some of my audience, so this post will be much much easier to understand (I'm thinkin' of you, Unabashed! ;-)

Mmmkay, here's the "before" shot:



A pretty, pink Disney princess bike. Boo says she doesn't care for all the princess crap and, while she likes pink, it's not her fav. She has selected a lovely purple sort of color called French Lilac (#796878 in 'man-speak').

The first step is to strip off the old point. We are using wire disks and cups in a high speed drill. It's taking off the stickers and paint in one fell swoop:
How cute- A father couldn't be more proud! She did quite a bit of the stripping, too. I figured she'd get bored with it but really I'd have to take the darn thing from her to use it myself. We got most of it stripped off tonight but not all. I need to get a chain tool to pop that off as well and will likely need some dremel attachments to get some of the hard to reach spots.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Gleanings from Montesquieu

The copy of Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man in which I had made my notes has been misplaced, so my intentions to post some highlights from that book will have to wait until it turns up. In the meanwhile, I have undertaken to read The spirit of laws by Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu. This writing was very influential for our founding fathers and is most often credited for instructing them on the separation of powers, which is critical to the structure of our government. The book itself is a comparative study between the nature and laws of the three (as he identified them) types of government: republics, monarchies and despotisms.

All of these are from the first book, which deals with the origin and nature of laws.

...even most of them (brutes, animals) are more attentive than we to self-preservation, and do not make so bad a use of their passions.
Such a being (man) might every instant forget his Creator; God has therefore reminded him of his duty by the laws of religion. Such a being is liable every moment to forget himself; philosophy has provided against this by the laws of morality. Formed to live in society, he might forget his fellow-creatures; legislators have, therefore, by political and civil laws, confined him to his duty.
As soon as man enters into a state of society he loses the sense of his weakness; equality ceases, and then commences the state of war.
The strength of individuals cannot be united without a conjunction of all their wills.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Blog is dead

Well, not quite dead. But my blog sure hasn't had much to say lately, either! I've been very busy and very tired. That tends to un-inspire me and I don't write if I don't have anything inspiring to write about.

There were a couple of posts that I almost wrote, but I got bogged down by the shear weight of it all. First was some excerpts from Thomas Paine's writing on The Rights Of Man. There's a lot of good thoughts in that book and the first really good explanation I've read on the topic of natural rights. It's very enlightening. I have numerous lines highlighted that I intend to post.

Next I was going to post on some Bible teaching related to the creation of the universe and it's forecasted end- God's ultimate plan for the universe and how we fit into it. I actually started writing this. I even busted out my college Physics and Thermodynamics textbooks and Shepherd's School materials.

In both cases, I realized that a single post would be totally overwhelming and not get read. Especially not by the Unabashed word-avoider. So I've decided to do a running series of short, focused posts for both of these topics. Well, someday. Maybe after I post pics of my finished bathroom.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Purgatory

Every husband from time to time must serve his wife in manners which he is not fitted to actually do. Yesterday was one such time as I assisted my beloved in finding the Holy Grail. And by Holy Grail I mean 'the perfect swimsuit'. If the gov't has to give up waterboarding, they should seriously consider making the detainees help women find swimsuits. I know, at first glance, that seems like a job they might actually enjoy. But once they are past the first ten minutes, any thought of pleasure will be far out of mind and the endurance sport of trying to keep your eyes from crossing as you stand amidst a sea of ladies’ swimming garments being picked over by women you in no way would want to imagine wearing anything other than burkas.

The dungeon where this occurred has three floor racks, each with four racks: two on one side and two on the other.

Each rack has an estimated one hundred hangers for a total of twelve hundred suits that make up the clearance section. Here is the process we followed:

--My wife shops by touching each item, inspecting the tag first and foremost. If the price is discounted 'enough', then it warrants further inspection.

--Next the size is looked at. It must be a 'small' but also must be 'large enough'. This hearkens back to the principle that all women’s clothing should be size 'small' or 'zero' regardless of the actual dimensions.

--Lastly, the style is taken into consideration.

--If all of these criterions pass muster, the garment is then queued onto my wife’s’ arm.

--Once this queue is full, additional garments are passed on to her Sherpa (me) until enough items are collected to outfit a water polo team.

--Each of these garments are then tried on, complained about and ultimately rejected. The garments must then be replaced onto the rack where the hunt begins anew.

This process is then repeated until the husband’s mind is turned into mush. Due to us being "in a hurry", we only had to endure this three times, for a total of one hours and forty-five minutes. A few years ago, we ran a half-marathon (13.1 mi) in about the same amount of time. We found the grail and proceeded to begin our vacation, where new adventures awaited us.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Miscellaneous Items

Crack cocaine stinks to high heaven. Just a whiff is enough to make me nauseous. How the crap do people live like that?

Eight days in to the Atkins pain-and-suffering induction, I'm down 8#. Amazingly, I still have 16.6% body fat. I seriously don't know where all the fat goes... Is my head looking smaller?

Gorilla glue is the worst glue on the planet. Right now my hands look like they've got leprosy from that unworkable crap. It flows almost like water and then, as it dries, it expainds 2-3 times in volume, which generally messes up whatever your gluing. And it refuses to come off. Well, I guess that's a good thing about it, except it's such a mess.

Extras is hilarious. Props to Neuf for turning us on to that! Too bad they aren't making any more.

Tomorrow is our 14th anniversary! I'm looking forward to a day of vacation as we set off to Fulton, Mo to hang out a nice B&B and generally linger about, doing nothing. Tomorrow night we'll be going to the Stonehill Winery restaurant and I'll will break the Atkins diet with sauerbraten, red cabbage and potato pancakes. I'll break it like a Los Angelean breaks a plate glass window with a brick during a riot... I'll break it all to hell!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Saying "happy Memorial Day" doesn't really sound appropriate, given the intent of the holiday itself. In an attempt to fulfill the spirit of the day, last night we watched the first part of the (very long) movie Gettysburg with the kids and explained to them how this battle led to today's holiday.

The movie itself was interesting. It has so far focused a lot on the lead up to the battle and a climax of the fighting on day two, focused on one particular unit. It generally followed the historical battle up to this point and then it diverged, which, I don't really get because the historical battle has so many stories equal or greater in valor ('valour' for Neuf). Jeff Daniel's character is outstanding with excellent dialog ('dialogue', senor Neuf) and acting. There were several thought provoking and memorable lines from it. Here is my favorite ('favourite', again for Neuf):

"Many of us volunteered to fight for the Union. Some came mainly because we were bored at home and this looked like it might be fun. Some came because we were ashamed not to. Many came because it was the right thing to do.
This is a different kind of army. If you look at history you'll see men fight for pay, or women, or some other kind of loot. They fight for land, or because a king makes them, or just because they like killing. But we're here for something new. This hasn't happened much in the history of the world. We are an army out to set other men free. America should be free ground, from here to the Pacific Ocean. No man has to bow, no man born to royalty. Here we judge you by what you do, not by who your father was. Here you can be something. Here you can build a home. But it's not the land. There's always more land. It's the idea that we all have value, you and me. What we're fighting for, in the end, is each other. Sorry. Didn't mean to preach." (Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain - played by Jeff Daniels)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bathroom update

It's officially been eighteen months since this project began with some demolition, and a full year since the 2008 tax return and construction began in earnest. Progress is coming slowly but it is coming, which is more than can be said for KC's downtain renaissance. As of late I have put a lot of effort into the tedious details. I've posted some pics of a couple of nice, custom touches that are wrapped up.

First is the window casing. The interior corner trim doesn't show in this pic because it's too small. It is a corner shaped cove stacked on top of a round-over and round gives the inside jambs more polish than a simple bead of caulk. The photo does show an embellishment that was super easy to install and will really enhance the French provencial style of the room.





These faceplates are custom-made. It was difficult to find faceplates that had the right arrangement of holes and a style that goes with the rooms planned decor. Anything we found that was suitable started at $20 per plate which was outrageous! I made these by starting with the cheapest, white, plastic faceplates available, about $1 each. My wife selected a toile print fabric on clearance at Walmart that matches the style and I used a clear adhesive to glue the fabric to the faceplates. In order to give them some durability- this bathroom is mainly for the kids and guests- I sprayed them with thin layers of a high gloss finish. Once the finish visibly built up over the bumps of the fabric, I sanded between layers with 320 grit sandpaper and 600 grit before the last coat. I was very pleased with the end result, especially for the first time. In the end I think it was around $15 for the four faceplates.

Friday, April 17, 2009

TIF'd off

This is an excellent article on the failure of TIF's in KC. I don't usually agree with this guy, certainly not on big picture issues, but on this issue we are in absolute agreement. Of course I've been ranting against the TIF's for a while. I never believed they would drive a true downtown renaissance, or sustainable progress anywhere else. I have detested that most of these are awarded to out of state, much less non-local, companies. And just as was suspected, as City revenues are falling, the City is giving it's money away to enable private developers who are in turn are getting a competetive edge against local companies and driving them out. TIF's are just a small-scale, localized version of the massive Federal bailouts and wrong for all the same reasons.

It would have been far more equitable and sustainable to simply lower sales tax rates. This would have placed money in the hands of consumers instead of developers, and encouraged suburban consumers to shop in KC, instead of the other way around. Increasing the desire to buy in KC would mean that smart businesses would seek to enhance their edge by moving to KC, instead of away from it, especially the small to mid sized businesses that make life- and shopping- much more interesting (the way the Plaza used to be and the Crossroads district is). More shoppers and more buying would have meant more revenues and, on top of all this, happier citizens. We could have been happy about the flourishing of local businesses, instead of suspicious of corruption and "outsiders" coming to push out local guys and we could have been happy about a better economic position. We also could have been happy with- heck, even proud of- our local government. But far be it from our City Council members (and I use the term 'member' in the lowest sense of the word) to make a right decision when there's good money to be made in making the wrong one. Bastards.

And as a post script, these miserably implemented TIF's happen because a private developer comes along with a plan. In this plan they boast a grand picture of economic development: so many jobs will be created, so much revenue will be generated and the face of the City will be given a lift. The Ephors at the Council buy into this and move to grant special favors to the developer. But there is no follow-up and no accountability for these claims. There is very little questioning of the assumptions that go into the grandiose claims and no research on the actual impact. The developers can and will say whatever they want to seduce the self-indulgent politicos into their bed. In short, they get away with it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

TEA Party

Tonight I attended the TEA Party at the Liberty Memorial. I had no idea what to expect so I went sans family. The weather was perfect but the parking was horrible. I arrived just a few minutes after they had begun. I'm not expert on guestimating crowd sizes but I'll give it a shot and say about 4,000 people were there. It was full of families, posters, American flags as well as some Don't Tread On Me flags. Everyone seemed normal and I did not detect any KKK, Nazi or Aryan Nation types. One guy yelled something about rejecting the New World Order but he was on his way out and drew no attention anyways. There were even a few minorities there. It wasn't exactly a demographic crosss section of KC, but it wasn't pure vanilla either. It was, however, full of people that are fed up.

There were two speakers and I can't recall who they are. I've never heard of them. They did a fair job, though, of delivering nice speeches. But I felt that they lacked energy and failed to tap into the volume of frustration and anger that the crowd brought with them. I was glad that the speakers stayed away from bashing or embracing either of the two party Lizard system and the first speaker was outspoken in aknowledging God. All in all the speeches and the crowd were very subdued. Another weak point is that there was not tangible action plan or any direction on where to go from here. I guess we've had our say and now we feel better and can go back to ingoring the politicians as much as they ignore us. At least until next years budget comes up.

I wholeheartedly believe that this will be entirely unnoticed by the politicians who ignorned us in the first place. They will continue to mortgage the future, socialize the present and uphold businesses which are not viable anymore.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Snow Ball Theory

No, this has nothing to do with the 8" of horrendous white slush that was dumped on us over the weekend. The Snow Ball Theory is a story- a story about the planet Earth, as told by it's rocks and a bunch of men with way too much free time and creative imaginations.

Last night my wife and I sat down to unwind while watching some TV. I would have preferred something funny, but we landed on the Science channel and some show called 'Let It Snow'. This episode was about the establishment, and acceptance of, The Snow Ball Theory.

Once upon a time, the fair, green Earth was smitten by a stranger from space. This stranger was a massive asteroid which raised a cloud of dust into the air so high, and so thick that it shuddered out the warming light of the sun for ages. The Earth grew cold, while swaddled in the dark blanket. So cold, in fact, it reached a magical tipping point where so much of the Earth's surface was encrusted in glittering white, that it reflected back into space too much of the sun's warming rays to be able to warm itself up again. So the earth grew colder still, until it was completely locked up in a ball of ice.

But as time pressed on, the Earth found within itself the means to throw off this frozen straight-jacket. Pockets of fiery fury erupted over the face of the earth, pushing through the aquatic glass and spewing tons upon tons of CO2 into the then cloudless air. After ten thousand years of these eruptions, and no outlet for the CO2, this chemical swaddled in the sun's warmth and allowed some ice to begin melting. This, in turn, allowed water vapors into the air so that new clouds could form. This allowed yet more sunlight to be absorbed and more clouds to form until, at last, rains fell upon the face of the Earth yet again!

These rains- initially acid rains- perpetuated the thawing and opened up the door for new life to evolve until our present day. Once again the Earth was garbed in emerald and azure and decided it would be best if she didn't date any more strangers from deep in space. And they lived happily ever after.

I'm so glad we have modern science to liberate us from believing foolish things such as: that at one time the earth was a giant greenhouse; that the earth was once covered with water; or that at one time the earth received no rain; or that at one time, the earth was subjected to instantaneous, cataclysmic shifts in the environment. Thanks to this painstaking research, we now know that the earth was at one time a giant greenhouse, was then covered with glaciers (made from water), didn’t receive any rain for a long period of time and suddenly, due to climatic changes, began to receive rain. Thank you, modern science, for clearing all that up!

This show made no mention of the great flood and so was not a critique. It was hilarious to us, however, how much of what they were saying lines up with the Genesis account of the antediluvian world and they seemingly had no knowledge of it. Also, their theories- based up on other theories- were yet fraught with assumption! And the entire show framed this theory as something that people were trying to prove, with “religious zeal”. The show frequently referred to “the believers” and once even referred to one of them as a “disciple”. Outstanding! Absolutely outstanding….

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Truth and Error

Lately I have been reading The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine and ran across this tidbit:

“Ignorance is of a peculiar nature; once dispelled, it is impossible to re-establish it. It is not originally a thing of itself, but is only the absence of knowledge; and though man may be kept ignorant, he cannot be made ignorant.”

A couple of months ago, my beloved purchased a great book for the whole family to go through together called The Fallacy Detective. It was written by a couple of homeschool graduates and is focused on teaching children, from a Christian worldview, how to detect logical fallacies. It is really a book of short lessons, with lots of examples and age appropriate exercises. We have been going through it slowly, doing just a couple of lessons per week, and really trying to apply it. Neither my wife nor myself had ever received formal instruction in logic so this has been educational for us as well. On a day to day basis, we are seeing more and more fallacies enumerated in news articles, speeches, commercials and every day conversation.

I present the quote above, regarding ignorance, because if there is a root cause to our current failures as a free nation, it is because people have cast off thought for feeling, reason for affections and truth for entertainment. This ignorance is the root cause of our rejection of God and toleration of those who push us further away from Him. This blot of darkness that pervades the public mind is the slave trader who will soon sell us to a new master. The best thing that free people can do, right now, is learn how to think and to educate others in the same.

One last thing, to preempt the friendly wounds of criticism that would say "Our mission is to preach the Gospel alone, and none other!", learning how to think orderly thoughts and instructing others in the same is no contradiction, or distraction, from preaching the Gospel of Christ. God is willing to reason with man, and it declared by Scripture that the Greeks seek after wisdom. While the foolishness of the Cross will never be reconciled to human wisdom, it is necessary for the Christian to employ Reason as a colaborer in our great commission, as Paul did at Mar's Hill. But how can a Christian do this if Reason is no friend of his? And how can it be received if the hearer has no capacity to understand truth? It would be like building a bridge where no room is found for footing on either end: possible only by suspending the entire span from the sky itself. Christian brothers, it is every bit in the best interest of filling our mission to both exercise ourselves and instruct others in the mode of proper thought.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

How Christianity Changed The World

Finally, I finished this book. Here is my review.

This book is excellent: a must read for anyone interested in history, sociology or apologetics. It can be a foundation for any Christian seeking to understand "the big picture" and a guide for anyone wanting to unlock cultural secrets of the West to more effectively preach the gospel. The author consistently and directly tackles the question, "How has Christianity changed the world?"

The author establishes a benchmark for change in each chapter by contrasting early Christian views and practices with that of the surrounding world, chiefly the Greco-Roman system but also the Judaic and Semitic systems of the Middle East and, less often, the Far East systems. He then traces how Christ's followers impacted their world from a discipleship perspective and attempts to hit the highlights of change as they unfold in history to the modern age.

The first few chapters are by far the most impactful. The Christian ideas regarding respect for human life and women, health care and abolition were the most significant and often shocking to me. The high ideals held by and sacrifices made by Christians were in stark contrast to the very base and ignoble ideas of the Greco-Roman system- the same type of system we as a society are fast striving to rebuild. The middle of the book tackles important but less impactful ideas, specifically regarding government, economics and science. The end of the book was somewhat tedious, addressing architecture, music, literature, holidays and language; but he rigorously followed the same pattern and showed how much of our modern world still echoes the teaching of Christ.

The author is Lutheran and this slant definitely shows, but it never put me off. He equally embraces all mainstream Christian denominations without apparent partiality and constantly goes back to the Scriptures, to the teachings of Jesus and the acts of the early church. He favorably portrayed some people (such as Origen) and writings (Didache, Shepherd of Hermes) which I have been taught were the "bad guys" in some way or another, or were evil writings. This has caused me to question to some extent this clear-cut assumption. I may pursue further reading on some of these but it is really of little interest to me.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A week of blessings

Our family spent last week at the dessert-end of the buffet of life. Last year was difficult in many ways and I was hopeful that this year would be better. But going in to January presented a very, extremely... awfully... I really can't overstate how bad it was... grueling... period of disobedience/rebellion/attitude with my oldest daughter. After a couple weeks of this, and my wife's patience wearing down to the bone, I began waking her at 5AM every day to do her math. After a week or so of this and much praying, she finally had a repentant heart. It took her a couple of weeks still to un-form some of her new bad habits but things are much better now.

One of the evidences of salvation in a person’s life is that person hearing from the Lord in His Word. Since that time of rebellion and breaking, our oldest daughter has had numerous times in the morning where she saw some little nugget from her daily reading that she was excited about and even was able to make immediate and personal application. My youngest daughter, who has not yet been called, even had a very personal observation regarding the necessity of the rod. It was a huge blessing to see and know that Christ is working in their lives through His Word!

My son has had a difficult year due to wrestling. Again, I can't do diligence to describing how incredible this experience has been for his character and spiritual development. He has a tremendous work ethic in practices, which we routinely hear about from different coaches. It is normal for him to come home sweaty, flush and quivering in weakness because of the intensity of the effort he puts in. Despite the constant effort, he lost every match this year at a tournament- most by pin. One thing I like about wrestling over team sports is that is very simple and yet very intense. A person can't make excuses and shift blame the same way they can with a team sport. You own your effort- it's all you. If you lose, it's your fault and you bear it alone. It is routine to see little boys crying at these tournaments. For many of them, losing is a soul-crushing experience. To have that experience, time after time, week after week, can be devastating.

That was exactly where my son was. He worked hard in practice but was too timid on the mats. He wanted to quit. "I suck", he said. Lack of ability was an excuse- really a way of blaming God. I didn't let him quit. I told him to work harder and trust the Lord. I knew that what he needed to do was let go of himself- of his fear- on the mats. A lot of parents/coaches might advise that he needed to "get angry", but that really is just an illusion, a mask to the fear that is still there. He needed to lose the fear so he could focus his mind. The only way that was going to happen was to continually face that fear until he conquered it. In talking with my wife I kept calling it "the fire and the anvil". This is how little boys become men of character!

Two weeks ago he approached his tournament with a new goal: to get a mere five points for the day. In his first match he quickly got pinned. He was in an emotional nosedive again and more determined to quit than ever. I promised him he was going on the mat even if I had to carry him out there and toss him on it. I also promised him that the other boy was going to humiliate him if he refused to stand for himself. At this point I felt like I was completely incapable of ministering to my son. I called my wife and asked her to pray about that with me.

Once he got to the mat side (he had about three hours to stew between matches!) he started to focus on his goal. He realized he had to get it together or he was going to find himself in a bad situation. His stance was perfect and his shot was strong. He brought it hard and managed to rack up five points before getting pinned in the second period. He let go of his fear and decided to fight and at the end of the match, he met his goal. He went home elated, feeling like a winner.

Those five points caused him to realize that he can do it. On the drive home, he asked me how wrestling could one day help him in a job, since I'm always telling him this experience will help him with everything in life. I explained how hard work and perseverance will help in any line of work. He then asked if there were any spiritual applications of wrestling. Wow! We then had a long talk about spiritual warfare and the battle against the flesh. He is beginning to see this activity as an allegory for life and for spiritual warfare and apply it to his life.

So last week, out of the blue and all on his own, he came home from playing with a neighbor boy from a few houses down from us. He talked with his friend about Christ and salvation and asked him if he knew he was saved. His friend indicated that he wanted to know for sure so they prayed together. I am as analytical as the next guy-provided the next guy is extremely anal and likes to over-analyze things- but the Lord reminded me that we have to come to Him with a child-like faith. So here was a child very simply explaining the Gospel to another child who very simply believed it. I don't suppose evangelism could ever be more pure than that! Praise the Lord for this young man who wants to follow Him!

And if that weren't enough blessing, my son went into last week’s tournament brimming with confidence but not arrogance. One of the coaches told me "If he works as hard on the mat today has he has in practice, he's going to win." Indeed he did win. In his first match he attacked aggressively but methodically and pinned his foe in about a minute. In his second match he did more of the same and got a second pin, also in the first period. My wife’s parents and brother were with us for that one and we all screamed and shouted for him together. It was a small bracket so he took first and got his first gold medal. I'm still not sure if he realizes this, but he earned it.

Lastly, after three years off, my wife has finally started running again! We are going to do the Trolley Run with several friends from church. I really look forward to the year ahead and spending time with her building up some long runs. And she is already getting excited about the whole deal as well. God has been better to us than we deserve!

Sorry this post has been so long, but we have been so blessed. Besides, I'm writing this more for myself to look back on than for anyone else's benefit, although I hope it will be a blessing to some.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Concerning Christ and Jazz

For those who don't know, I am completely and utterly without the capacity to "do" music and, as a corollary, the ability to "appreciate" music. So I don't offer this so much to make a statement or even imply that I agree. Rather, I'm just poking a few people in the eye with it because deep down inside, I'm really immature.

Here's a quote from How Christianity Changed The World:

Richard Weaver, in his Ideas Have Consequences, saw this revolt even in the music of jazz., which, he said, gave the fullest freedom to the individual to "express himself as an egotist. Playing now becomes personal; the musician seizes a theme and improvises as he goes; he develops perhaps a personal idiom, for which he is admired. Instead of that strictness of form which had made the musician like the celebrant of a ceremony, we now have individualization.” Jazz, he argued, “has helped to destroy the concept of obscenity. By dissolving forms, it has left man free to move without reference, expressing dithyrambically whatever surges up from below. It is music not of dreams- certainly not of our metaphysical dream- but of drunkenness.” He further stated that the chief devotees of jazz are “the young, and those persons, fairly numerous, it would seem, who take pleasure in the thought of bringing down our civilization.”

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Fine time to experiment...

At 1AM last night we heard gunshots somewhere in the neighborhood- for the 2nd time this year. Ooooh, can't wait till the kids are out of school and it's hot so they can really start making trouble. A few minutes later came the sirens and a few minutes after that, the helicopters. Since I didn't know for sure what was going on, I thought it was time to load up a magazine. Wow- little did I know. My fingers are sore even now and I was only able to get ten of them loaded, out of 16. Clearly this was not a job for the soft, gentle hands of an angry and very sleepy coder. Is there some kind of machine for loading those things up?!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Christ-centered home defense

Luke 22:36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take [it], and likewise [his] scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.

Yesterday we finally made our handgun selection: the Springfield Armory XD9. We got the "service" model with a 4" barrel. It was not the cheapest weapon by any means but it did come with lots of extras, including two 16 rounds clips. Apparently there is a lot to be said for this gun, but as I am no expert I won't say much except that I am excited and apprehensive at the same time.
Our primary reason for getting a gun is home defense. The above verse has always been of interest to me because Jesus actually instructed his disciples to go about packing heat. There is no wrong in that and it does not indicate a lack of faith in God. Moses' story is a classic one because God chose to use the rod that was already in Moses' hand as an instrument of divine manifestation. There was nothing special about that rod but God chose to use it. While the Almighty certainly can do miracles, His style through scripture and through history is often understated, saving the true theatrics for the really big shows like the Exodus and Armageddon. I don't want to put God in box and limit Him, so I got myself a rod, just in case.


For a long time now, I have clung to Psalms 34:7 in times of fear:


The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.


And another one sort of related to this:


Psa 20:7 Some [trust] in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.


Trust in God will still be the core of our home protection plan. Thanks to Neuf (and others) for the guidance along the way!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wind chill is a factor

We haven't had very much "ice biking" yet this winter, but there's been plenty of opportunity for really-freaking-cold biking. Fortunately today is a rest day for me, because the air temp right now is -1°. Assuming I could even get up to 20mph, like on a good downhill, that would have an wind chill factor of -23.3°! The coldest ride I've taken yet has been at 7°, which at 20mph has a wind chill factor of a mere -12.8°. My top half was fine on that ride, but from the waist down it got pretty cold. Time for some new gear!

Meanwhile, the City has opened a Community Center with an awesome gym right across from my work! I've been heading over there during lunch several times a week now. It's great to have a place so close.

These are my fitness goals/plans for the year:

1. Strength building: now thru March-ish.

2. Cycling base training: 6 weeks in hell. 25 mi / day, 6 days / week for six weeks.

3. Plyometrics training: never done this before. This sounds like new and wonderful forms of masochism. It develops quickness and power and will be good for hills. I will do upper and lower body. The ultimate goal will be to tackle another mountain. Any mountain will do but it has to be a "real" mountain, no fake Ozark mountains! Also, it will hopefully address shoulder issues that made swimming somewhat painful.

4. Endurance training: two to three months of stacking on high mileage rides with the ultimate goal of finishing a "century" ride- a 100 mile ride.

5. Compete in and beat my previous time for a sprint triathlon. All I need to do for this is learn how to swim for real!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Data Anonymity

A couple of months ago, a Facebook friend of mine posted a link to a Youtube video where someone was explaining how every piece of merchandise that is sold could be labeled with a "Carbon Quotient" - that is a numerical representation of the amount of carbon generated in the production and shipping of a product. Then consumers could compare CQ's between products to select the most "green" one. I suppose there is an assumption that manufacturers would then try to create "low carbon" products just as they do "low fat" products.

Over the last year or so the media has popularized the idea of selling "carbon credits". The gist of this, that I can tell, is that we are each allotted so many units of carbon we may produce in a year and must pay extra for consuming more. In my mind, it did not seem a stretch to use the idea of a CQ in order to implement a carbon credit system (which really would just be another form of taxation and do nil to "help" the environment). I explained in my response how product data can be cross referenced with a persons credit card history to build a profile and used for analysis. My friend scoffed at this and replied "or, people could just make an informed choice!". Sure, someone will be informed, but it's probably not you and I! We agreed to disagree... when in Rome...

The other day I had to sit in a software demo for an address validation tool. Now I love clean addresses probably a bit more than the next guy but this was dull, even for me. The sales guy- who utterly failed to bring any kind of offering to appease us- showed us how you input addresses and the program validates them against real USPS data. Ok, whoopie... any numbnumb can interact with their web services to do real-time validation.

So how do these seemingly disparate topics relate? Well in the course of his demo, I noticed that not just addresses were showing up. First, there were a few company names intermingled with the lists of valid addresses. "Oh", I thought to myself, "the USPS must be validating company names as well. Hunh... that is only slightly interesting." Then a few minutes later, I noticed there names- the names of real, honest-to-God, Joe-average people. I enquired as to where this data came from and here was his answer:

A credit card company is the parent company of the software company that made these. Credit card companies buy and sell names and so they used this list to build an ever changing, up-to-date database of who lives where- regardless of registration with the USPS. Additionally, any time you subscribe to a magazine, the data gets sold as well. At this point, alarms were going off in my head; black helicopters were circling about; swarms of locusts enveloped the conference room: how could noone else see this????

To me, the only thing this guy validated was the notion that all of our personal data is indeed being "rolled up" and used to profile us for marketing schemes and very possibly even social control. Color me paranoid, but I think it's a good reason to go-green by using cash only. Stick it to the man!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2008 in review

Happy New Year!

On reflection of a solid year of intermittent blogging, I'd have to say the "best" post I put up last year was a review of 2007. Even if no one in cyberspace ever reads it, it was good for me to write. 2007 was definitely a year of blessing for my family and for our church. 2008 was a year of playing roshambo with the devil. But God is good and gave us much grace.

Tragedy

Tragedy struck early in hard in our little church family with the passing of the two year old son of one of our churches best couples. He died from the flu, of all things. This impacted everyone and the whole church rallied around them physically and spiritually, the way a church should. Last night the mother gave a very honest and powerful testimony about her struggles and how Christ is still rebuilding her life- but it is being rebuilt. That was a comfort to hear and a reminder of how important our time in the Word is.

Misfire

One the heels of that group trial, I began a still continuing struggle with prostate problems. It started with a painful infection spreading throughout the region. It really struck hard while on a three day backpacking trip with my son and some friends which proved to make the trip generally miserable. After some time, the infection went away on it's own but other symptoms persist. The worst is the malaise - a sense of deep physical exhaustion- that comes and goes. It also has reduced interest in certain marriage related activities. On any given day, it's sort of like running on four out of six cylinders, so it takes God's grace every day.

Eyes up here!

Over the whole year, an enormous amount of personal belongings have broken. While things could have been much worse in that regard, it was just enough to be very frustrating. The worst loss was the big screen TV, which will not soon be replaced. But all of those "things" are not important and my wife and I realized the whole time it was nothing but distraction. So long as we have food and clothing we are instructed to be content, and we have so much more than that. We are truly thankful for God's constant provision in our lives.

The Presidential election was another occasion to remember that God is in control. There was a lot of Obama related fear and hysteria floating about the media and the internet. Maybe some of it is true, probably a lot of it is not. But either way it doesn't change our mission as Christians and my perception is that there is more determination to pray for this man on the part of the Church than there ever was with Bush. How can that be a bad thing? Maybe we're in a better political position now.

While you weren't looking...

God likes to be sneaky, but in a good way. While we tend to be focused on where we're at (especially when that place is not fun), a lot of times we miss "the big picture". Then it is only in retrospect that we see the things that the Lord has accomplished. While there was a lot of trials and discouragement for the whole church this year, there was also a lot of blessing.

We got to take several different couples through premarital counseling and really see them take hold to the ideas of a Biblical marriage. The Lord has also put a lot of things on my heart about how we can be much more effective in that ministry.

I had the privilege of taking a man through Directions and seeing God work in his life in some amazing ways early in the year. In the fall, God brought us a couple to take through Directions and the man has a friend who is now joining us. We are starting over in the lessons but these guys have a lot of energy and excitement to serve the Lord so this is going to be really good!

This year discipleship has begun in earnest with our older two kids, who both accepted Christ last year. The shiny-newness of salvation wore off and the gritty reality that knowing Jesus doesn't automatically make one "perfect" has set in. This year we spent a lot of time teaching about walking in the Spirit instead of the flesh and understanding that God has us here for a purpose. To that end, we attended the evangelism class as a family which was a great experience! It is awesome to see them grow in desire to tell others the gospel and refreshing for us as well. We're still praying for our last, little sheep to come into the flock!

The Lord has also opened up a huge door at Westport HS through wrestling and tutoring. Everything is just sort of getting off the ground now so we should see it come to fruition this year. I was glad to be a part of helping get it set up.

Our church was finally able to purchase it's building also! God really came through in providing the funds. When looking at the amount of money that is being offered, it's tempting to elevate that to "miracle" status. I think the reality is the only miracle is that so many people are being obedient. God has yet to prove himself- yet to do something truly miraculous. What has happened is what should have happened and we are only surprised by this because we're used to a lower standard. Praise God for His goodness being manifest through His people.

Good things to come


There were many more blessings along the way, these are just the highlights from my own perspective. 2008 has left some unfinished work that must be tackled in 2009. Among the things God is already in motion on:

-Continuing to pray for the salvation of our youngest daughter.
-Discipling the people the Lord has brought to us.
-Redeveloping the premarital lessons and ministry.


As a family, our vision verse for 2009 is Heb 12:1,2, with emphasis on running with patience while looking to Jesus. I am convinced that my own family has been over doing it and it’s time to scale back. You can’t start sprinting in the middle of a marathon- you won’t even finish the race! We have to pace ourselves slower for a bit to recover and then return to a “normal” pace that we can actually keep up with.